The importance of multi-modal reporting in the news industry’s digital shift

9 06 2011
Editor’s note: As a member of AAJA’s 2011 Voices Program, I’ll be covering their national journalism convention (this year in Detroit) come August. But before then, I’ll be partaking in some pre-convention training at Poynter’s News University. I figured sharing some of the jewels of wisdom I come across on my site will provide a great resource for others.

Thinking like a multimedia reporter (strengths and weaknesses in each platform). It goes beyond being able to write a story for print, and produce video and interactive maps online. A journalist fluent in multimedia should be able to create multiple platforms that play up to each medium’s strengths.

Regardless of platform, all reporting require the basics: the facts (who, what, when, where, why and how), sources and newsworthiness (a reason to listen/read/watch). But how these essentials are packaged will look differently to each platform. A short rundown:

For broadcasting, you want to use a strong visual or audio grab to get the viewer’s attention. And unlike print/text platforms, you want to convey one idea per sentence in a style that feels conversational. Using a video clip for television and audio piece for radio in your story will boost its credibility and make it more interesting. The biggest weakness for broadcasting is that complex issues can be extremely difficult to summarize or simplify in a 60 to 90 second spot.

For print, it’s all about the lede and inverted pyramid. When people pick up a newspaper, the photo (if you have one), headline, lede and nut graf will be the main factors considered when deciding whether or not to read the entire story. Using words that utilize vivid detail and the senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste) can sometimes create a much stronger visual than a picture or video can. The strength for this platform can also be its weakness. Often times, words sometimes fall short to completely explain something that a video or audio platform can do better at.

For online, two approaches are used: the short summary for scanners and the online exclusives for information diggers. The first option means, using the inverted pyramid approach for short bursts of info. Or if it’s a longer story, breaking it up into bolded subheads or bullets are the way to go. Scanners tend to just read headlines and the first graf of a story and move on. For online exclusives, news packages including interactive maps, links, Flash and audio-visual elements are commonly used. Technical aspects like content management systems and having an online package outlive changes in technology pose a challenge for this platform.

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Tips on effective storytelling from popular public radio host Ira Glass

8 01 2010

Good journalists know how to tell the facts. Great journalists know how to tell a story.

Whether through words, images, video or audio, reporters of any medium need to know how to skillfully create a compelling narrative.

Ira Glass, American public radio personality, knows all about creating the hook, line and sinker, so to speak.

Photo by Kevin J. Zimmerman.

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